Family Matters

A Bit of Pampering

I have returned from my visit to Pittsburgh.

This time, my trip didn't include any sightseeing.  No trips to gardens.  No pilgrimages to special restaurants or brew pubs.  No shows.  Nothing fancy.

Just . . . a bit of pampering!

Erin, as you may recall from earlier posts, is in the Technical Writing graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University.  This program is intense, highly competitive, and quite grueling.  Erin, who works really hard and has Very High Standards for herself, really needed a good rest and some restorative time during her spring break.

Mom to the rescue!

My strategy was to just . . . keep things low-key.

We did some shopping.  (Baby needs a new interview suit. . . )  (And a new pair of shoes, too.)

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We enjoyed an indulgent spa day.  (Massages and facials, all around!)

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We ate out a few times -- and I also cooked a Mom-dinner in Erin's kitchen.

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We had a great time playing with Erin and Keith's silly kitty, Dash. 

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There was a whole lot of kicking back and just relaxing.  I even pampered myself -- with some wine and stitching (both knitting and Alabama Chanin) -- back in my hotel room every night.  (Gotta love my hotel wine glass!)

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And . . . a special bonus!  While Erin spent some much-deserved sleeping-in time, I met someone very special for a coffee date!

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Kat (yeah . . . THAT Kat) and I spent hours and hours chatting and catching up and even getting a bit riled up together at a Starbucks somewhat-near downtown Pittsburgh.  

Time flew!

I can attest that her incredible daily stitching project is even MORE awesome up-close-and-personal than it is on Instagram (and it's pretty dang awesome on Instagram).  I think Kat knit a few stitches while we were together, but my bag-of-sock just sat there on the table for the entirety of our visit.

As always, it's wonderful to meet a blog-friend in real life . . .

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My time in Pittsburgh was perfect.  Restful and relaxing -- with plenty of pampering.

 

 

 


February. It's the New April.

I can't even . . . with this weekend.

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Record-breaking warmth.

Sunshine.

Almost flip-flop weather.

Rather unnerving . . . to be out in the garden.  

In February.

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Totally unexpected . . . to be driving around with the sunroof open.

In February.

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So surprised . . . to be throwing together impromptu snacks-on-the-patio.

In February.

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And yet . . . here we were.

February.

(It's the new April.)

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We interrupt this blog post to bring your this special NEWS FLASH!!!

These two . . . 

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(today celebrating 7 years of "coupledom") announced this . . . 

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It's Breaking News, people:  Erin and Keith are engaged!  

(Isn't that a fun way to start the week.)

 


Roll With It, Baby

Today is a special day . . . because this guy?

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Birthday Boy!

And because every birthday needs a soundtrack, here's my song for Tom . . . on his 58th birthday.

You see, this year . . . well.  It hasn't been an easy one.  In fact, this year ranks right up there with some of the crappiest years of our 37 years together.  In fact, I'd place this year in the #1 spot of our Top Five Most Challenging Years Ever list.

There was 1993.  That was a frustrating year.

And 1999.  Lots of growing pains.

2003 was particularly nasty.  But only for a few very intense months.

2008.  Yeah.  That one was bad, too.  

But 2016?  Total shit storm.

But we're getting through it.  Because that's what we do!  We hold each other up.  We light each other's path.  We shoulder on.  We head up north.  We go to the gym.  Basically, we . . . 

Roll with it, baby.
Hang on and roll with it, baby.

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Get on through it, roll with it, baby
Luck'll come and then slip away,
you've gotta move,
bring it back to stay

You just roll with it, baby,
come on and just roll with it, baby
You and me, roll with it, baby,
hang on and just roll with it, baby

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So, happy birthday, dear Tom!  

No matter what life brings us in the coming year, I know we'll roll with it.  

Because that's what we do.

 


Cheers

When I was a little girl, my mom took a ceramics class.  I was thrilled when she made this for me:

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A snowman mug . . . with a candy cane handle.

Oh, man.  I remember that milk tasted so much BETTER out of this mug!  (And hot chocolate with marshmallows?  Oh, yeah.  The BEST.)

Of course, my mom made one for my sister, too.  And, being a wise, thinking-ahead kind of mother, she painted our initials in the candy cane handle, so we could make sure which mug belonged to which sister.

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This year, I dug my mug out of the back of my cupboard.  I stuck a bunch of candy canes in it -- and I put it on my desk.  Right there - where I can see it every day.  It reminds me of the excitement and magic I felt as a child at Christmastime.

We're in the countdown week now; the Big Day is almost here.  I hope you all have a chance to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember the special-ness of the season.  Cheers!


A Christmas Tradition. Since 1992.

Back in 1992, a friend invited me to a Pampered Chef party.  And, well, you know how it is . . . you feel obligated to go.  And obligated to buy something.

I bought this . . . 

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a gingerbread mold.

It'll be fun . . . I thought.

The kids and I can make gingerbread houses . . .  I imagined.

Maybe it'll even become an annual tradition . . . I mused.

And, y'know?  I was RIGHT!

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It was fun -- and it TOTALLY became an annual tradition!

In the early years, I always baked two houses worth of gingerbread, and my mom and I teamed up with my kids to decorate houses on a weekend before Christmas.  It was lots of fun - and something we all enjoyed doing together.  (Although Brian usually lost interest once the houses were assembled; he hardly ever stuck around for the finished product.)

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While Brian's interest waned, Erin became the Queen of Gingerbread.  She started hosting an annual gingerbread decorating party for her friends.  Here they are in 5th grade (Erin, the hostess-with-the mostest, is in the very back of this photo; I can't remember which finished house was hers, though.) . . . 

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(You'll notice I gave up on the mold when it came to Erin's parties.  We just went with graham-crackers-on-milk-cartons.)  (Works GREAT, by the way.)

Erin's annual parties continued even in high school.  She invited fewer friends -- and baked the gingerbread (in the mold) on her own.  (Just as an aside . . . one of Erin's high school friends used to decorate these incredible houses every year.  Intricate and gorgeous.  Really amazing.  She ended up becoming a pastry chef and decorator extraordinaire as an adult!  We knew her when. . . )

Once Erin finished college and moved to Pittsburgh, we started doing gingerbread houses on Thanksgiving evening after the meal.  We continued the tradition this year.  It was really hard without my mom . . . but we were thrilled to add my sister to the mix!  (She has never taken part in this particular activity with me before, although she is a veteran gingerbread house decorator.)

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This year, my sister and I got our inspiration from Pinterest.  Like . . . maybe too much inspiration.  We got really excited about . . . thatched roofs and stone fireplaces.

My sister's kind of worked . . . 

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But mine?  Not so much. . . The "stones" are falling off in little piles around the base of my house!

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(There will be no "stones" left by Christmas. . . )

But, you know.  That's how it goes!  Some years, our gingerbread houses turn out GREAT.  And some years . . . well, they just don't.  

But it doesn't matter at all.  

Because it's really not about the finished product!  Like most beloved family holiday traditions, it's ALL about the being together, having fun --  and creating memories.

I'm really blessed . . . to have some great memories coming out of that silly Pampered Chef party.  These houses really just . . . warm my heart.  Every single year.

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This post is part of Think Write Thursday.  To read more contributions, click here.  And to sign up to receive the weekly prompts, click here.


Is It Genetic?

Recently, one of my mom's cousins in Canada sent me a few old photos of my mom as a little girl.  Here's one I hadn't seen before.

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That's my mom ("Little Vonnie") . . . with her mom (my grandmother) and grandma (my great-grandmother).  I love and treasure this photo -- because we only have one or two photos of my great-grandmother at all, and not many more of my grandmother.  (Both grandmas died before I was born.)

But look closely.

My great-grandmother is knitting a sock!!!  (Further, she didn't put the sock down for this rare 3-generation family photo-op with her daughter and granddaughter!)

Genetics.  It's a powerful force!


Right Now . . . November 2016

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November has been a crazy-busy month for me, end to end.  Filled with stresses and emotions and too-long ToDo lists . . . but also with love and gratitude and turkey!

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(These gorgeous flowers are from my mom's memorial service last Tuesday.  Aren't they lovely?)

Here's what's happening in my world . . . Right Now:

Watching - I finished watching The Crown last night.  I loved it.  Tom and I watched Love Actually the other night.  Other than that, not much watching going on.

Reading - But . . . I do have plenty of reading happening!  I finished reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (and winner of this year's National Book Award) just yesterday morning.  This is a powerful book -- one I will be thinking about for quite a while.  I also recently finished Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Again, powerful.  I have two books on library loan through Overdrive -- and I'm going to have to read fast because they're due far too soon (when it rains it pours, it seems): Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and Hot Milk by Deborah Levy.  (Luckily, they're both on the short side.)  

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Knitting - I have been finding some time to knit a bit.  Not much, but some.  I'm knitting this sweater, and I'm nearing the end (just one more sleeve and the pockets).  On size 11 needles with bulky yarn, this one is clipping right along (so to speak; it's a relative statement).  I'm anxious to try some of these cute little guys -- and I'm still looking forward to knitting up some of these.

Drinking - Tea.   And plain old water-infused-with-oranges.  And wine.  (Natch.)

Humming - This one.  Four Strong Winds was one of my mom's favorites.  (She was from Alberta, you know.)  Erin sang it at the memorial service last week --- quite a bit different than Neil's version, of course.  Seeing that Erin's voice is classically trained.  And Neil's is . . . not.  Anyway.  I've been humming this song ever since.

Needing to - Resume my usual fitness routine.  Because my life has been so upside-down and inside-out lately that too many of my workouts have, well . . . pretty much disappeared.   (I also need to quit eating so much cheese.)  (But let's not talk about that.)

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Delighted by - Shhhhh.  It's kind of under the radar . . . but I'll let you in on a secret.  My knee has improved enough that I am running again.  Just a little.  And very slowly.  But I'm delighted.  (I'm also delighted by the shoelaces in my new running shoes.  Aren't they great?)

Looking forward to - Bringing light and winter comfort into my house during these dark times (seasonal AND political).  (Stay tuned.)

Celebrating - Something that I can't quite blog about yet.  But it's fun.  And I'll tell you as soon as I can.

Planning - A party.  The holidays.  My dad's move.  What to knit next.  Which book to load on my iPod.  Year-end tax stuff.  Pretty much . . . All The Things.

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Grateful for - These four goofballs.  I was so happy to have them all home last week.  I was happy to buy them drinks and take them out for dinner and laugh with them and listen to their banter.  It doesn't get much better!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . right now?


 


Full of Thanks . . . and Turkey

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We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration yesterday.

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It's hard when there is someone so obviously missing from our table.  But we took comfort from memories of Thanksgivings past and the love that we all share.  

(The food was really fabulous, too.)

I have more to tell about the last week or so.  But for now?  Excuse me while I go collapse in a corner for awhile. . .


Imaginary Conversation

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We gathered for my mom's memorial service yesterday.  It was a hard day for all of us -- but an important milestone event in our grieving process.

The hardest part for me was not being able to tell my mom all about it.

That's what I'm really missing most often these days . . . the ability to pick up the phone and share the latest news with my mom, or to sit down and "debrief" an event or happening in my life, to make plans - or just plain old gossip with her.

Our conversation last night might have gone something like this . . . 

Oh, Mom!  Can you believe all the people that came to your memorial service?  So many friends -- from your neighborhood and your church and even the pool!  There were lots of relatives from Rockford.  You would have loved to catch up with Aunt Nancy and her kids.  LaVern and Kathy were there, too.  I wish you could have seen Dad's face when he realized it was LaVern!

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Mom . . . Both your hair stylist and Dad's barber even came.

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And, Mom!  The flowers!  They were so gorgeous -- your favorite colors and beautiful fall blooms.  My friend, Sharon, did them here in Kalamazoo -- and then Di and Erin and I carted them to Holland in my car.  Sharon gave me sandbags to hold them steady for the drive -- but Erin still had to do some emergency rescue on the way.

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People loved the slideshow, Mom!  We had photos of you throughout your life . . . right there on the big screen.  Yep.  Even the 1960s hair and the 80s perm.  (And those glasses!  So huge!)  Dad loved going through all your old photos and choosing his favorites for the slideshow -- and I added all the more recent shots.  We had a little of everything -- and people really enjoyed seeing you through the years.

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The family looked so smart and dapper.  Oh, Mom.  All of our men in their suits and ties -- Dad and Tom and Kurt and Brian and Keith.  So handsome.  (I don't even need to tell you that we girls looked great.  Because you know we did.)

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Erin sang, Mom.  It was beautiful.  You would have been so proud!  And Tom gave a wonderful eulogy -- telling all the best stories and helping people remember you with a smile and a laugh.  (And, yeah.  He told both the dingbat story AND the one about the rhubarb pie.)

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Everything was perfect, Mom. 

You'd have loved it!